Rob Allen - Shark Photography
Rob Allen | Shark Photography

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Shark Conservation

Sharks worldwide are under enormous pressure from many angles, and their numbers have dropped catastrophically in the last decade. These pressures come from:

  • Longline fishing
  • Shark finning
  • By-catch
  • Overexploitation of their food sources
  • Killed in anti-shark nets
  • Killed for sport
  • Killed for trophies and to supply the jaw trade
  • Pollution
  • Habitat Destruction

Why is it that every year humans slaughter an unbelievable 100 million sharks and yet we depict them as vicious and blood-thirsty killers?

In fact, no more than 12 people are killed by sharks worldwide each year. Whatever statistical analogy you prefer to use, this is a tiny number:

  • more people are killed each year by bees, pigs, coconuts than sharks
  • more golfers are struck by lightning and killed each year than the total number of shark fatalities.
  • more people are bitten by other humans in New York than are bitten worldwide each year by sharks.

We kill sharks for their teeth and jaws for trinkets and mementos, for shark leather for shoes and belts, for shark liver oil and for shark cartilage for pseudo cancer cures. We kill sharks because of our fear of them, for food, for sport, for fun and most disturbing of all - so that some of us can make a tasteless, expensive soup to impress our family and friends.

It is the mass slaughter of sharks on longlines and in nets for the sole purpose of taking their fins that is responsible for the massive depletion of shark populations around the world.

Already 18 species of sharks have been listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Why Should We Care About Sharks?

Sharks are a valued and essential part of oceanic eco-systems. They are both predators and scavengers, and in these roles they contribute to eliminating diseased and genetically-defective animals and help to stabilize fish populations. We do not know enough about marine ecology to understand what the impact of this unimaginable onslaught of shark deaths will bring about. What we do know is life in our oceans has been seriously disrupted. With shark populations reduced from 70% in some species to up to 95% in other species in just the last 15 years, the consequences are extremely serious. For example, removing sharks will increase octopus populations resulting in greater predation on lobsters by octopus. This was the reason that the spiny lobster fishery collapsed in Tasmania. Sharks differ from other fish reproductively as they do not lay thousands or millions of eggs. Many sharks take up to fifteen years to reach maturity and then produce only one shark pup per year. Such a fragile and slow reproduction rate means that their populations may never recover from the damage we have inflicted through fishing pressure on an industrial scale.

Sharks Need Our Protection

The position of Shark Safaris is that no sharks should be killed at all and that all species should be given complete global protection under international law. We will campaign wherever possible against the practice of longlining and support the confiscation of illegal killer lines (and nets) from the oceans. Protecting sharks is a more difficult job than protecting dolphins or seals. From the point of view of public relations, seals are cute and dolphins have that lovely 'smile'. The shark, in contrast, shows its teeth and looks menacing. However, dolphin lovers should know that fishermen kill and cut up dolphins for shark bait for their longline hooks. As conservationists, we must recognize the value of the interdependence of all species in the oceans and that the shark is an important part of the diversity of marine ecological eco-systems. We must oppose the cultural practice of consuming shark fin soup, and we must discourage the consumption of sharks for cosmetics and for trinkets. Most importantly, we must educate the general public that sharks are not the vicious, mindless killing machines that many people believe they are.

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